Young Talents Emma Raducanu and Ben Shelton Set Off 2024 in Auckland

Former US Open champion Emma Raducanu and rising American star Ben Shelton have been awarded wildcard entries to the ASB Classic, held in New Zealand early in January.

The ASB Classic, staged ahead of the Australian Open, will mark 21-year-old Emma Raducanu’s return to official competition, setting off her 2024 season next January in New Zealand.

The British player, away from the tennis courts since April, received a wildcard to play at the event.

The 2023 season has been one to forget for the young Briton, who only competed in nine matches before undergoing surgery on both wrists and her left ankle.

She has been preparing for the upcoming season with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) staff at the National Tennis Centre in London, where fellow Britons, former world number one Andy Murray, Jack Draper, and Liam Broady have also been training.

Meanwhile, American Ben Shelton will make his second appearance at the tournament, as he earned a wildcard to contest the ATP 250.

Last season, he was ranked World No. 96 when he first stepped into the Auckland hard courts, advancing into the round of 16.

In that regard, Shelton commented: “Auckland was my first win of the year on the ATP Tour. To start things off the right way in a place I really enjoyed was important to my success that followed at the Australian Open and for the rest of the year.

From there, he went the distance at the Australian Open, becoming the youngest American player in 40 years to progress to the quarterfinals at the major – lost to countryman Tommy Paul.

Nearly a year later, the Atlanta-born broke into the Top 20, currently ranked at No. 17, following an exceptional tennis display on home soil to reach the US Open semifinals, falling to eventual champion World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Building upon his fast progress, he helped Team World clinch back-to-back titles over Team Europe at the Laver Cup, held in Vancouver, Canada, in late September.

Moreover, during the Asian swing, he completed a dream week on Japanese soil to claim his maiden tour title, the ATP 500 Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships.

He beat World No. 50 Aslan Karatsev in straight sets, rounding up his breakthrough season in style.

Speaking about returning to New Zealand, the 21-year-old said: “Next year, I am hoping to venture out a little bit more and see more of this beautiful city and experience a few sights – maybe take the ferry to visit the black sand beach.”

The defending champions are World No. 3 Coco Gauff and Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

The ASB Classic WTA 250 women’s event runs from January 1 to 7, while the ATP men’s tournament is held from January 8 to 13 in Auckland.

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